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Its Pictures are Tangible and Proffered

“Maybe we can express ourselves best if we say it without words.” — Anjelica Huston in Wes Anderson’s “The Darjeeling Limited” (2007)

It is obvious a movie is not a book or a song or a poem.

A movie is a play of light and sound, with a temporal dimension. It happens in front of us; its pictures are tangible and proffered, rather than inwardly created. While movie-watchers collaborate with the filmmakers to some extent — the final film is still the one that plays in the backs of our minds rather than in front of our eyes — a director presents us with a manifested vision, a built world, not just the raw materials from which we might puzzle one out.

We know what the worms and orinthopters look like in Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune” because we have seen them, not just read their descriptions. This is a powerful advantage of film, one that even Tolstoy thought might obsolete the novel.


A filmmaker shows us what writers can only tell us. And these images move and consort and take on trajectories. If a picture really is worth 1,000 words, multiply that by 24 frames per second, by however many seconds are in your average movie.

So a two-hour film is worth 172,800,000 words. More than 400 times as long as Margaret Mitchell’s 1,000-page novel “Gone With the Wind.” It takes the average reader about 56 hours to read a million words. If the adage is correct, a two-hour film could deliver as much data as nine billion hours of book learning. Theoretically.

Not every filmmaker takes advantage of the medium’s inherent bandwidth, and there are limits to what our brains will perceive. Sometimes it’s counterproductive to cram a frame with irrelevant detail; even the most intentional directors sometimes must accept that their vision can only be incompletely realized. They must necessarily collaborate with pre-existing faces, shapes, colors and sounds.




A couple of weeks ago we saw Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch” in a movie theater, on a big screen with good sound.

I was anxious about seeing the film. I am a fan of Anderson’s work in that I often appreciate it because I flatter myself that I am able to see around the sides of it, that I get it. But I’m also aware that this insider-y appreciation of his work is not the same thing as genuine enjoyment. note: The Rescue Movie

Often while watching one of his films, I find myself thinking about things a moviegoer should not have to think about — which characters have been assigned which colors and how the youngest characters seem to be the only genuine adults in the play, willing and able to engage with the sorrows of the world.



It’s like I’m carrying around a mental bingo card, blotting off points of congruence with other Anderson films. A labyrinthine, obviously artificial set (like the mountaintop hotel in “The Grand Budapest Hotel” or the research vessel Belafonte in “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou”)? Check. Precise, metered dialogue just a few cents off stilted? Check. Funny hats? Check.

Like most Anderson admirers, my entry point wasn’t his first movie, 1996’s “Bottle Rocket” (though I have since gained an increased appreciation of it.) My gateway was 1998’s “Rushmore,” which has become a cult classic. But unlike a lot of cult classics, “Rushmore” isn’t all cruel fun and snobbery. note: The Movie Version of DEEMO Sakura Melody Movie

It’s the opposite of cynical, a movie about overt passion that is genuine and deserved as well as a kind of mask. Though it bears only the slightest resemblance to the story lines of these works, throughout the film I was reminded of Hal Ashby’s 1971 romantic black comedy “Harold and Maude” and Martin Amis’ first novel “The Rachel Papers.”

“Rushmore” resembles the Ashby film in tone, and Amis’ protagonist — though much meaner than Anderson’s antihero Max Fischer (Anderson’s chronic collaborator Jason Schwartzman) — has something of his mock-adult pretensions.



“Rushmore” might be divisive; it has a certain calculatedly belligerent edge likely to divide watchers into camps of the enthusiastic and the unimpressed. It’s part of the cinema of the inside joke that has its roots in the ironic inventions of such ’70s comedy icons as Monty Python, Richard Pryor and “Saturday Night Live.” It’s not so much a movie some people won’t get as a movie designed not to be gotten by some people.

This is the case with a lot of of Anderson’s films — if you wanted to, you could call them elitist. Or you could say that Anderson gives his audience the benefit of the doubt; he assumes they’re smart, or smart enough. And by now, 10 movies in, you can be relatively confident that no one is going to a Wes Anderson movie by mistake. note: Juvenile Movie

That doesn’t mean it always works for everybody.